Support the Café

Search our Site

Anglican, Roman Catholic Commission find agreement on ecclesiology

Anglican, Roman Catholic Commission find agreement on ecclesiology

Meeting in Erfurt, Germany, the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission reached a conclusion of the first part of their work on finding agreement on ecclesiology, or the structure of the church; focusing on ways that the two Churches are structured at local, regional and universal levels.  This is meant to be the foundation on which the next step, on how the churches, at all levels, can discern right ethical teaching.


Despite what have been characterized as “difficult conversations” and “hard questions,” The Commission was particularly glad to complete its first agreed statement, and the first ARCIC statement since 2005. It hopes that Walking Together on the Way: Learning to be Church – Local, Regional, Universal will also be known as “The Erfurt Document”. The published text is expected to be available in 2018.


The Commission had decided to meet in Erfurt to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Erfurt is a significant city in the life of Martin Luther. It was here that he studied, decided to enter the Augustinian order, made his vows and was ordained.


The entire statement can be downloaded here (pdf)


From the Anglican Communion New Service

This first formal statement to be agreed in the third phase of the Arcic discussions addresses the structures and decision making processes of the two churches; and explores church order and the maintenance of communion. It paves the way for the work on Arcic’s next statement, which explores how the church discerns “right ethical teaching” at both a local and universal level.

The statement agreed this week asks the Churches to consider where they are in need of reform; and then to ask what they can learn from their ecumenical partner.”



Vatican Radio’s Philippa Hitchen spoke to the Catholic co-secretary of ARCIC III, Fr Anthony Currer of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.

Asking hard questions

Fr Tony says participants “asked hard questions of one another” and agreement was by no means “a foregone conclusion”, yet the encounter also produced some “very positive conversations”. By reflecting on what the Anglicans call ‘instruments of communion’ the group explored decision making at local, regional and universal level, within both traditions.

Receptive ecumenism

Using what’s called the ‘receptive ecumenism’ model, Fr Tony explains that “each of us on our pilgrim way, trying to walk in fidelity to the Lord,” is called to examine how we “are wounded in some way”. By speaking honestly to our dialogue partners about our difficulties and shortcomings, he says, “we can learn from one another”.

Synodal structures, open discussions

Asked about what Catholics can learn from their Anglican counterparts, Fr Tony points to the “processes of synodal life” including parish councils, diocesan administrations and other regional structures. Noting the way Pope Francis is calling for “a more synodal Church”, he says these are questions where “we can look to the Anglican Communion” whose structures are “a bit more developed than our own”. He also notes the “very frank and open culture of discussion about real difficult issues in the Anglican Communion”, saying “that’s something we could look to gain from”.

Reflecting on obstacles to unity, such as the ordination of women, Fr Tony says the new document looks at the broader questions of “ where authority lies,” adding that decisions taken at regional level are under “a lot of pressure to move in line” with the prevailing culture of the country.”

You can listen to the whole  interview


Members present in Erfurt were:

Most Revd Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, England
Most Revd Sir David Moxon, Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See

Roman Catholics
Revd Robert Christian, OP                          St Albert Priory, Oakland, California, USA
Revd Canon Adelbert Denaux,                                       Professor Em. Brugge, Belgium
Most Revd Arthur Kennedy                                          Auxiliary Bishop of Boston, USA
Professor Paul D. Murray                                                     Durham University, England
Professor Sister Teresa Okure,           SHCJ Catholic Institute of West Africa, Nigeria
Professor Janet E. Smith        Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, Michigan, USA
Revd Professor Vimal Tirimanna,           CSsR Alphonsianum University, Rome, Italy
Very Revd Dom Henry Wansbrough,                         OSB Ampleforth Abbey, England

Dr Paula Gooder                                                                                The Church of England
Right Revd Dr Christopher Hill                                                      The Church of England
Right Reverend Linda Nicholls                                       The Anglican Church of Canada
Revd Canon Dr Nicholas Sagovsky                                                The Church of England
Revd Canon Dr Peter Sedgwick                                                           The Church in Wales
Revd Dr Charles Sherlock                      (Consultant) The Anglican Church of Australia
Revd Dr William Adam                        Representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury

WCC Observer
The Revd Dr Odair Pedroso Mateus    Director of the Commission on Faith and Order


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Paul Woodrum

Can’t we just jump into full communion, then figure things out? You know. Like with the Methodists.

Robert S Jackson

Perhaps a group conversation of this sort has little “authority” — the way that word tends to resonate in the language world of “ecclesiastical systems.” Nevertheless, this observation does not reduce the value of such a conversation — certainly not since its intention is to increase the value given to “synodal life.” Surely true “authority” is shown by what it authors, not merely because it is said by somebody with such and such a title. Did the conversation increase the weight, power, worthiness of “synodal life,” or not? That is the question whose answer matters.

Thom Forde

The lack of American representation shouldn’t be a concern; however the heavy presence of Great Britain and absence of any African or other third world presence is tragic. But in any event I am a huge skeptic of these talks. They carry no weight whatsoever. Fr. Currer’s comments about “hard questions and “receptive ecumenism” are wildly out of touch with Vatican machinations…even under Pope Francis. Synodal life was precisely how the early Church functioned but Rome refuses to concede this point even to the Orthodox. For it’s own part Anglicans continue to throw their own road blocks in the path of ecumenism.

Jay Croft

Three Americans on the RC side, and zero Americans on the Anglican side. What gives?

David Allen

Isn’t TEC in the naughty corner regarding ecumenical relations so that TEC’s liberal theology on certain non-core beliefs doesn’t confuse the folks Anglicans are speaking/meeting with?

Prof> Christopher Seitz


Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café